225: Open Source

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 03:42, 17 August 2014 by (talk) (Minor typo fix)
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Open Source
Later we'll dress up like Big Oil thugs and jump Ralph Nader.
Title text: Later we'll dress up like Big Oil thugs and jump Ralph Nader.


Richard Stallman is famous for beginning the GNU Project and is outspoken on the topic of Open Source software and Free software. So much so that he has garnered dislike from traditionalists who believe that software source code is a trade secret. While this dislike may not be at the level of hiring ninjas to remove him from the world, it is strong.

GPL refers to the 'GNU General Public License', which covers all GNU software. It stipulates software is copyrighted, provided with full source code, and everyone is free to modify, disseminate and even sell software provided they also provide full source code and retain all copyright notices. This makes all software derived from GPL software also GPL, even if 'derived' means 'borrowed a couple of lines of code from'. Many people consider this to make GNU software behave like a 'license virus'.

The wording "For a GNU dawn!" is pronounced "For a g'new dawn!".

Eric S. Raymond is a famous hacker who has been an unofficial spokesperson for Open Source movement. The plan to prank Eric Raymond next is a bad one: he is an experienced martial artist, swordsman, and gun enthusiast.

Linus Torvalds is the creator of the Linux kernel, an Open Source operating system kernel inspired by Unix.

Ralph Nader is a famous consumer rights advocate, most famous for the 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed and for running for US President in 2000.

At his talk at JCCC3 [1] Randall mentioned that the comic he originally published had the assassins say "Free software" and Richard Stallman says "Open Source software". He swapped the two terms after complaints that Richard Stallman was opposed to Open Source [2]. Even after this change he got an email from Stallman himself saying that he didn't even wanted to be portrayed in the same comic as the words "Open Source".


[Richard Stallman is sleeping on a bed.]
[Suddenly, two ninjas jump through the skylight.]
Ninja 1: Richard Stallman! Your viral open source licenses have grown too powerful.
Ninja 2: The GPL must be stopped.
Ninja 1: At the source.
Ninja 2: You.
[Richard Stallman wakes up immediately, and pulls his katana out of its sheath from under his bed.]
Richard Stallman: Hah! Microsoft lackeys! So it has come to this!
Richard Stallman: A night of blood I've long awaited. But be this my death or yours, free software will carry on! For a GNU dawn! For freedom!
Richard Stallman: ...hey, where are you going?
[The ninjas step out the window.]
Ninja 1: Man, you're right, that never gets old.
Ninja 2: Let's do Eric S. Raymond next.
Ninja 1: Or Linus Torvalds. I hear he sleeps with nunchucks.


  • Because of this comic Stallman has been given a katana by fans of xkcd. [3]
  • The phrase "So it has come to this" is also the topic of another xkcd comic.

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"Richard Stallman is famous for beginning the GNU Project and is outspoken on the topic of Open Source software and Free software." Specifically, he is an outspoken critic of Open Source, and an outspoken proponent of Free Software. Blaisepascal (talk) 02:09, 29 August 2012 (UTC)

Ah, thank you. That's good to note. lcarsos (talk) 05:25, 29 August 2012 (UTC)

GPL isn't a recursive abbreviation for ‘GNU Public License’, then it would have to be called ‘GPL Public License’. GNU in itself, on the other hand, is a recursive abbreviation for 'GNU's Not Unix'. -- 15:38, 9 March 2013 (UTC)

 Done (Though I actually noted this myself and fixed it; then noticed your comment :-) ) Mark Hurd (talk) 10:45, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

The pronunciation of GNU is actually "g'new" not "new". 02:06, 29 December 2013 (UTC)

~ ~ ~ ~ Aren't ninjas supposed to be stealthy and silent? Of course, they could have been made to announce their mission to Richard before (perhaps) killing him, but still... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The point is not to kill him, but to startle him into a response to an absurd situation which the pranksters find humorous. -Pennpenn 03:00, 15 January 2015 (UTC)

The comic isn't quite explained here. Did the ninjas kill RMS, or were they just pretend-ninjas trying to scare him? Is the blob in the last panel a blood smear or a hood being carried? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Read harder, there is RMS's comment on them running away. 21:02, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
But the explanation did not at all mention the real joke of the comic that the ninjas are just pranksters that get a kick out of scarring paranoia guys with weapons readily at hand, so they can get threatened and hear them talk nonsense before running away without really fighting. Yes this could be dangerous but so can climbing mountains and parachuting... They get their kicks from this and plan to do at least three more as from the names mentioned in the last panel and the title text. This has now been included in the explanation by me, but there seems to be missing some info yet... --Kynde (talk) 10:17, 18 March 2016 (UTC)

I have a bit of an issue with calling non-free software traditional. RMS is the traditionalist here. He created GNU for that very purpose, to get back to the traditional method of being able to access and modify your source, and then share any fixes you made with the wider community. 21:02, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Linus Torvalds isn't "mostly harmless". 16:25, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

There is a bit of allusion to the movie Brazil, where government goons break into people's homes, cutting through walls and ceilings, in their pursuit of idealists who provide free services -- which is incompatible with the governing economic system. Mountain Hikes (talk) 21:52, 24 September 2015 (UTC)

Im not an active editor of this site, but i couldn't help but notice and point out that the grammar of this specific page is rather rough around the edges. if someone has the time to address this, that would be fantastic. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I am, I do, and I have. You're welcome! Alcazar84 (talk) 20:51, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

It's not "two ninjas were having fun", it's that two people were having fun. They dressed as ninjas to mess with him. There's no reason to think they actually are ninjas. That's just silly. —Kazvorpal (talk) 01:38, 22 October 2019 (UTC)